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The CAGED system part 4: Using the Caged system to boost you lead guitar playing

Rating: 1 user(s) have rated this lesson Average rating: 5.0 Posted by: Leokisomma, on Feb 01,2012, in category Improvisation/Soloing Views: this lesson has been read 3750 times
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CAGED system (part 1) lesson
CAGED system (part 2) lesson
CAGED system (part 3) lesson

As I stated in the previous parts of this lesson, the CAGED system is based around the five chord shapes C-A-G-E-D that can be moved up and down the neck to get different versions of virtually any chord imaginable if you experiment around a bit.

So how, you’re probably wondering, is this going to help my lead playing? Well the first thing that will come to the mind of some players who know some guitar theory is arpeggios, and it is true, this is probably the most effective way to use the CAGED system is lead playing. However, arpeggios are an advanced technique for beginners to understand, so I will go over an easier to understand method first that is used just as much in songs like ‘little wing’ by Jimi Hendrix and ‘Cowboy Song’ by Thin Lizzy.

Tab key:-

--4-- = pluck the string shown while fretting the string on the fret numbered

--h6- = hammer-on your finger onto the string on the fret numbered, doesn't require the string to be plucked

--p2- = pull-off your finger from the string shown to sound a note while fretting the string on the fret numbered

-8b9- = luck the string shown while fretting the string on the fret numbered, then bend the string until the note sounded becomes the same as the note sounded on the fret shown to the right of the b. E.g., 8b9 means pluck the string while fretting the string on the 8th fret, then bend the string one semitone/one fret higher in pitch.

-8b9r8- = same a regular bend but allow string to return to regular position on fret numbered; think of b as meaning bend, and r as meaning relax

--t12- = tap on the fret numbered firmly with one of the fingers in your plucking hand

-t9r5- = tap on the fret numbered firmly with one of the fingers in your plucking hand then release your finger from the string either by simply pulling it off or twanging it, but fret the string on the fret numbered to sound that note after the finger tapping the string has been removed

-mb7- = bend the string slightly after plucking the string number shown, but don't bend it so that raises the note in pitch by a fret.

/ = Slide finger(s) up the fret-board to the fret shown

\ = Slide finger(s) down the fret-board to the fret shown

--9v- = use vibrato by wavering the string up and down by bending it to get a sort of wavy sound

--9ap-- = use alternate picking, i.e. pluck the string when your hand moves back up with the pick as well as when your hand moves down with it, to achieve a mandolin-like sound. I will only put this on tab when there isn’t enough room for a lot of repeated notes.

--5*- = hit a natural harmonic over this fret. In other words, lay your finger gently on the string directly over the fret, not the wooden gap, which is numbered, and then pull your finger off the string the instant you pluck it. If done correctly, you should hear a ringing sound.

Now let’s take the example of little wing as a starting point. You can hear that rather than playing a solo over the song he is actually playing a strange kind of rhythm part to the song using lead playing. What he is actually doing is using the CAGED system to find the chords that he needs, and laying a scale over the chords to play various notes that fit the song. I will give you an example of this just below this text.

Thanks go to the ultimate-guitar user who supplied this tab. Don’t worry about it looking quite a complicated tab for the moment; this is the intro to little wing, and I will decode it for you bit by bit, explaining how you can work this style of playing into your own without having to learn new scales.

Words and Music by Jimi Hendrix
Transcribed by bambam

Intro
Slow Rock Q=70
4/4
 Gtr I
|-------x-12\-|------------------------|------3h5p3-3---------------------|
|-------x-12\-|----x-x--------------5\-|------3-----3---3-(3)-3-3---------|
|-------x--x--|----x-x------0-----5-5\-|----0---------0-4h=5--5-4-5-4-----|
|---------12--|----x-x--------5---5-7\-|------------------------------5---|
|----------x--|----x-x--0h2---5h7------|----------------------------------|
|---------12\-|-0----------------------|-/3-----------------------------3-|


|------------------------------------|----------------------------------|
|------------5---5-------------------|-----8h10p8-----------------------|
|--------5---5h7-5-------------------|-----7------7--------7-7---7--7-7-|
|------------------5h7-5---5---------|--------------9----7-7-7h9-7--7-7-|
|----5-7---7-----------5h7-----------|---7----------7-7-10---------10-7-|
|-5--------------------------5h7-(7)-|-0--------------------------------|


|-----9-10-9----7-7-------------|--------------------------|
|-----7-10-7-7h10-7-7-----------|--------------------------|
|---7----7-7--------7-------7---|---5-5-5-5-----5-5-5------|
|---9---------------9-------8s7-|---7-9-7-5-5-5-5-7-5------|
|-------------------------8-----|-----------8-7------------|
|-7-------------------7-6-------|-5-------------------5h7\-|


                               2/4                  4/4
|-----5s7-5---5s1-------------|-------------------|---------------------------|
|-----3s5-3---3-3-1---1-------|---------1-3p1---0-|-------------7---7-7-------|
|---0---------0-0-0---0---0---|-----2-2---2-------|-----------7-7---7-7--7-7--|
|---5-5s7-5---5s3-----3---3---|-----2-2-----------|---7---7---7-7h9-7-7--7-7--|
|---------------------3---3---|-0h3-----------3---|-5---5---5-----------10-7--|
|-3---------0-------1---1---1-|-------------------|---------------------------|


|---------12\-|
|----------x--|
|-7--------x--|
|-7--------x--|
|-9--------x--|
|---------12\-|

Now obviously at first glance this seems like the kind of thing that only someone with a degree in music would understand, but here’s a small fact for you. Jimi Hendrix scored an F in his music exams. He never claimed to know everything about music, but simply made the most of what knowledge he had.

Let’s look at the basic chords that he’s out lining in this song so that you can see what’s going on. In the first bar he’s out lining these chords but mixing little phrases in here and there.

E||-0----------------|-3----------------||-5----------------|-0-----------------|
B||-0----------------|-3----------------||-5----------------|-0-----------------|
G||-0----------------|-0----------------||-5----------------|-0-----------------|
D||-2----------------|-0----------------||-7----------------|-2-----------------|
A||-2----------------|-2----------------||-7----------------|-2-----------------|
E||-0----------------|-3----------------||-5----------------|-0-----------------|

Now here’s the minor pentatonic blues scale in E, just to show you how much of the notes from these chords are in this scale. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with some of these terms, as I will write out what these musical terms mean and how to use them in each lesson if I have room, and I already have lessons on scales uploaded to this site if you need them.

Minor Pentatonic Blues scale in E

E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-----------10---12-|
B||------------------|------------------||--------------10--|-11---12-----------|
G||------------------|----------7----9--||-9--11---12-------|-------------------|
D||---------------7--|-8----9-----------||------------------|-------------------|
A||-7---9----10------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||------------------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

The highlighted notes are the root notes. Notice that even if you play the scale in this position before you lower the notes to fit perfectly over the chords, you can still hear a lot of the notes that are in the chords that I just showed you. You can even identify the root notes of the chords amongst the notes in this scale.

So how can you use the caged system to help?

Remember in the previous part of this lesson where I showed you how to split the fret-board up into segments to get the biggest amount of chords possible from just a couple of frets? It’s the same thing going on here. What Jimi Hendrix is doing is taking the chord, and then laying the scale down over the chord so that he can simply pick out the note he wants to hear from either of the two. For example, if we move the pentatonic blues scale in E back so that it has to use frets from fret 7 to open string (no frets used), we will find what notes he is using for his first few phrases.

Here is another version of the minor pentatonic scale. The only difference is that it’s being played lower down. Learn how this scale fits inside this 7-fret ‘box’ that you have forced yourself to use. This will make is much more apparent to you what notes are available to you when you are playing the chords in a song.

E||------------------|------------------||----------------3-|-5-----7-----------|
B||------------------|------------------||------3----5------|-------------------|
G||------------------|----------------2-||-4----------------|-------------------|
D||------------------|------2----5------||------------------|-------------------|
A||------------0---2-|-5----------------||------------------|-------------------|
E||-0----3-----------|------------------||------------------|-------------------|

Want a simple example to get you started? Okay, below this text I have written a couple of phrases you can try playing to give you a feel for this technique. Be aware that this is a technique that is reliant on feel a lot of the time, so it takes more practice to get right than it does theory knowledge, and there’s no real way around that. This bit of music follows the chords really closely, but songs like ‘little wing’ can stray away from the chord but still retain the feel of the song. It’s up to you to decide how far is ‘too far’ from the chords.

I have added the odd blues note to give it a more ‘Hendrix’ feel, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Just be aware of where the notes in the scale are along with the notes in the Chord. This may seem complicated now, but once you’ve done it you will have virtually tripled the number of positions you can play chords and solos in, without having to learn a single new scale.

E||-0-------0--------|------------------||---------3--------|-------------------|
B||-0-------0--------|------------------||---------0--------|-------------------|
G||-0-------0--------|-2h4p2------------||---------0--------|-------------------|
D||-2-------2--------|-------2--5--2----||---------0--------|------------5-h7-p5|
A||-2-------2--------|---------------2-0||---------2--------|-------5h7---------|
E||-0-------0--------|------------------||-3-------3--------|-5h6h7-------------|

E||------------------|------------------||-0--------0-------|-------------------|
B||---------7--------|------------------||-0--------0-------|-------------------|
G||---------7--------|-----------2------||-0--------0-------|-------------------|
D||---------7--------|-------2h5---5-2-0||-2--------2-------|-------------------|
A||-5-------5--------|-0h2h5------------||-2--------2-------|-----2h5p2---------|
E||------------------|------------------||-0--------0-------|-0h3-------3h5--5*-|

This song is one I’ve written, but I’m fine with you guys using it for practice, as I know how hard it gets when you’re just getting started on a new technique. I think the thing to focus on is being aware of where you can play rather than any particular finger-picking or fretting technique. This really is a kind of mental guitar-training, but it’s worth it once you see how much more of the fret-board is open to you afterwards.

This works for basically any scale you can think of, so even if you were playing something with completely different note patterns, so long as you use chords from that scale and can remember where those notes are, you can use this method to add flavour to any song you want.

That’s pretty much it for this lesson, but as always, feel free to let me know if you have any problems that you want me to help with, or if you feel that there is something that I have left out.

I hope that this lesson has helped you guys out there in some way. Take care and I’ll see you guys next time!

Peace! 

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